It's never been considered a good thing when you wake up screaming. Bethany did it for the fourth night in a row, so by now she was becoming accustomed to the cold sweats and having her fingers digging at the blankets. It was that sensation of only being a step or two away from vomiting that she couldn't get used to. That, and the final image of her ongoing nightmare that was burning it's way into her mind directly behind closed eyelids.
She untangled herself from the sheets and stepped down onto the cold floor. The affect only served to accentuate her clamminess. She wiped the beads of perspiration off her upper lip and looked at the clock. She didn't have to be up for another two hours. But up she was, and any hope of a return to sleep was directly out of the question. Jesus, she was going to be a worthless at work today. Not that it took a mental giant to do retail, but she knew she would spend most of the day as a zombie.
She maneuvered her way into the bathroom, almost knocking the telephone off it's stand. She closed the door before flipping on the lights. She didn't want to wake up Lindsey, if her screams hadn't already. She squinted in the brightness, trying to allow her eyes to see properly. As she peered into the mirror, visions from the last moments of her slumber worked their way back into her head. She rubbed her face roughly and examined herself. If she wasn't already so pale she would be worried. Strait black hair framed her bloodshot eyes and fell slightly below her shoulders. Bethany peeled the slick navy blue tank top off her body and sat on the edge of the tub to draw a bath. A knock on the door made her jump. She was shaking as she wrapped a towel around herself and heard Lindsey's voice come from the hallway.
Her roommate shielded her eyes when Bethany opened the door. Lindsey stood there in her bright green robe, her long curly brown hair pulled into a makeshift ponytail.
\"Again?\" Lindsey asked, leaning against the door frame.
\"Ya look like hell.\"
\"Thank you so much.\"
Lindsey wandered into the kitchen and began rummaging around in the refrigerator. She pulled out a carton of orange juice and fruit punch juice box. She weighed them in her hands and decided on the orange juice. As she was putting the juice box back, Bethany called out from the bathroom.
\"Are you up then?\"
\"Yeah. I ain't gettin' back to sleep. Especially when ya look all distraught and shit.\"
Bethany rolled her eyes and closed the door. She unwrapped the towel and starred at the tub. She hadn't put the stopper in the bottom of it, and it had only filled a few inches. She reached over, spun the knob and let the water stream out of the shower nozzle. If she could push Lindsey in and out of the shower fast enough, they might have time to run to the coffee shop to grab a few bagels or something.
She step into the water and let it cascade over her face, leaning back, she let the steam build up behind the curtain. A few more nights like this and she would welcome the possibility of being committed. She wished Jake had stayed over night again. At least she wouldn't wake up alone. Christ, she hoped she was alone last night.
A shudder rolled through her as the final memories played in her head. The white dress, the short curly blond hair, the blood. The soap slipped from her hand as the images assaulted her. Her bedroom, the girl, the blood. The blood. Bethany found there were tears rolling down her cheeks. She quickly pulled herself together, as best she could, and retrieved the soap. Only when she was toweling off, did she consider the ramifications of having a cold chill in a hot shower.
In her deep purple robe, she stepped hesitantly out into the hallway. Silence. She didn't hear Lindsey. She didn't even hear the cats and the ridiculous bells on their collars. She strained to hear the sounds of cars on the road, or the sound of a neighbor's television. She was rewarded with nothing. She shut her eyes tightly and murmured a \"no.\" She wouldn't look over into her room. Didn't want to see it. Not again, not so soon. Not all that blood. Not...
Bethany screamed and spun around. Lindsey let out a yelp and dropped the coffee cup in her hands.
\"Jesus fucking Christ, Beth!\"
Bethany ran her fingers through her hair and sighed. While she stood there, Lindsey hopped over the brown puddle and scooped up some dish towels from the kitchen. She moped up the spill while her roommate stood there in a daze.
\"Okay, we'll skip the coffee. Don't think ya need it anyhow,\" Lindsey said, attempting to wrangle a smile out of her.
Lindsey took her blank stare as an answer, but Bethany was trying to hold back another set of tears. She mumble something, and Lindsey looked up.
\"I said, I didn't hear you. Thought maybe you went back to bed.\"
\"I told ya I was up, honey. I'm here for ya.\"
Lindsey lead Bethany to the couch. After she waived away Lindsey's question of some orange juice, she started fiddling with the tassels on the end of one of the pillows. As Lindsey poured herself some coffee. Bethany tried to get her pulse under control.
\"All right,\" she said, plopping down on the opposite end of the couch. \"So...\" she added, leaving the air open for Bethany to fill.
\"It's the same as the other nights, like I said,\" Bethany began, furiously unwinding the tassels. \"You and I are standing in the kitchen. I look over a see a woman, a girl, in a white dress run from your bedroom to mine. I don't hear anything, like footsteps, I just see it. I try to tell you, but you can't hear me. It's like I'm not even there. Like I'm invisible or some shit. So I walk over to my bedroom and look in. And this girl is standing there with her back to me. She has on a white sun dress, the kind with ties in the back, and short, curly blond hair. And... and there's a pool of blood at her feet. She's standing in it. It's all over her feet, and she's barefoot. Then she turns around. She turns around, Lindsey, and...\"
\"And then you wake up.\" Lindsey says grabbing Bethany's pinky and wiggling it in support.
\"I see her first. Her whole front is covered, just like, fucking drenched in blood. I, ah... I think her throat is slit. Like, ear to ear slit. \"
\"Ew, damn! You didn't tell me that part before!\"
\"I don't think I remembered it until now.\"
* * * * *
Bethany struggled through work that day. Like a robot, she placed the blouses, tank tops, and cutesy tee shirts on hangers. She methodically folded all of the jeans and kakis on the display tables. Jumping every time a co-worker or customer spoke to her, by the time her lunch break came, she was a wreck. Bethany sat outside the mall entrance and sucked down three cigarettes in a row, the last one making her nauseous.
The rest of the day was the same. On her way home, she picked up some Chinese take-out for herself and Lindsey. Driving home, she noticed her cell phone beeping. She had been zoned out all day, and had forgot to call Jake on her second break like she usually did. It was probably from him.
It was, and the message wasn't good. His economics professor had assigned them a power point presentation, and it was due in two days. Since he had to work tomorrow after classes, he would have to work on it tonight, and not be able to see her. Bethany massaged the bridge of her nose and tried not to be mad. She hadn't told Jake anything about her dreams, so he wouldn't know how badly she wanted him to be there tonight. It wasn't his fault. Oh well, she had designs to work on for class tomorrow herself. Maybe if she stayed up and worked on some projects in advance, she would eventually be exhausted enough to sleep through the night. Dreamless sleep.
Lindsey walked in shortly after she did. Wanting to cheer up her roommate, she came bearing rented DVD's. An armload of stupid teen comedies. Bethany decided to blow off her school work. If a guy prodding pastries with his dick didn't scare off the nightmares, nothing would. After six hours of fart jokes, zit jokes, and period jokes, she actually felt good enough for bed.
Both girls stood hesitantly in the hallway. Lindsey shuffled her feet on the carpeting, and Bethany chewed on her lip. Neither wanted to abandon the other first.
\"If ya need anything...\"
\"I'll be fine. Thanks Linds.\"
Lindsey nodded and closed her bedroom door.
\"Lindsey! Lindsey! I'm right here! Why can't you fucking hear me?\"
Bethany keeps screaming, but Lindsey ignores her. She has to tell Lindsey about the woman. A woman just ran out of her room, and into Bethany's. She has to come with Bethany into the room to look for the woman. Don't make her go by herself.
But she does. Her roommate can not hear her. Her roommate does not know she is there. So Bethany walks to her bedroom. She looks in the doorway, into the room. The woman is standing there, near the corner. She has a white sun dress on. It's the kind that ties in the back. She has short, curly blond hair. The woman is standing barefoot in a pool of blood.
Bethany walks forward. She touches the woman on the shoulder, and the woman turns around. Blood covers the front of the dress. It has soaked into it, making it stick to her. Bethany sees the drops of red trickling off the hem of the dress. Bethany looks up and sees the woman smile. It is not a smile. It is red, like lipstick, but it is not a smile. It is too low. Underneath her chin, on her throat, and it reaches to each earlobe. The woman opens her mouth, her real mouth, and a red bubble pops out. And then it pours. And then blood pours out.
Screaming. Bethany was screaming and clutching her pillow. At the trail end, it caught in her throat and made her cough. Coughing? When she began breathing right again, she ran a hand through her hair. She looked over at the clock and groaned at the time. She had only been asleep a little more than an hour. This was not going to work. She still didn't hear Alex's television, but that didn't mean anything. He was a painter, and a nocturnal creature of habit. Maybe she could go over there for a while. She might actually be able to fall asleep on his couch while he droned on about Impressionist art. His ramblings about obscure artists had that effect.
Bethany reached over and flipped on her desk lamp, but froze with one foot out of the bed. There was a puddle on her floor. It was a dark red puddle, and it was exactly were the woman had been standing.
Everything went cold. All she could do was listen to her heart pound rhythmically and stare in stark horror at the blood. Then she saw the marks leading away from the puddle. It was a trail. There were bloody footprints leading out of her room. Bethany shot out of her bed. Lindsey. She had to make sure Lindsey was okay. She tiptoed around the blood, terrified of touching it, as if a single toe were to make contact, it would summon the woman back. She opened the door and peered into the hall. The footprints lead to Lindsey's room.
Bethany didn't know whether to be angry or terrified. Either her roommate was playing a cruel joke or something was in the house. Or she could just be totally insane. She followed the footprints down the hall, alternating her eyes from the trail to Lindsey's door. It was closed.
She knocked on it, calling out her friends name, little more than a whisper. She knocked again, but said nothing. She turned on the hall light to look at the door. It was the same as usual, a large poster of Joni Mitchell adorning it. Bethany opened the door.
Light spilled into the room, illuminating Lindsey where she stood. She stood in her bright green robe. She stood with her back facing the doorway. She stood at the end of the trail of footprints.
A tiny moan escaped Bethany. She did not realize she was walking forward. She did realize, until it was too late, she had touched Lindsey on the same part of the shoulder that she had touched the woman only moments ago in her nightmare.
But she saw the blood. She saw how it stained the criss crossing fabric and how it dripped from the belt. She saw horrible smile carved across Lindsey's throat, and she saw the box cutter in Lindsey's hand. She saw the blank, deadness to her roommates eyes, and the bubble burst out of her roommates mouth, splattering her face. She saw her roommate collapse to the ground.
Only then, right on time, did Bethany scream.
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